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Calculated Loss – SCOUTING 2022-23 (Part 1)

Traditional and modern scouting

Scouting has come a long way in recent years in terms of the science behind the process. Alongside the traditional method – whereby an expert or, in many cases, a scout, who is perceived to be an expert, evaluates a potential competitor based on their own experiences, in many cases their own sporting career, and reaches final conclusions – is the modern method: a complex mental imaging based on conscious observation, psychological, generational, even social media and online presence. The biggest difference between the traditional and the modern methodology is that the modern one can predict the expected performance of the selected player in a real, personalised crisis situation, which provides a concrete picture of the mental changes the athlete will undergo when moving to a different environment and how this will affect their performance. It thus provides a clear yes/no answer to the question of signing, not in general terms, but specifically for the team performing the scouting.

Sticking to tradition

Although the extent to which a team or sports professional relies on a scientific background when it comes to scouting varies greatly from sport to sport and, within that, from continent to continent, even if one decides that it is time to keep up with the trends, it is not certain that one will find the right tools or support within one’s own club. The thinking that players should be paid and that it is the job of the expensive player to perform is still common. There is a legitimate basis for that, of course, but it is also fair to say that just because you pay more for a player, it does not mean they cease to exist as a human being. Because however much a player may earn, they have a psyche, there are generational influences that affect them, there are local challenges that may affect their performance, and it is, therefore, a fallacy to believe that if I move them from one team to another, they will perform in the same way. Then, of course, there are the comments that we want to be profitable, and examples can be thrown around in this area; players can be shown off, players can be told that they have succeeded. And there are indeed successful transfers, when a player moves to another team and continues in virtually the same place where they left off with their previous team. But that is a minority of cases. From a mental point of view, there is very little chance that one club can create the same environment as another. And it clearly follows that the performance of players is usually different when they change teams. The mental mechanisms at the time of changeover are determined by the personality of the player. And it is safe to say that there is no personality type variation or category that will not react in some way to a change of team, and that mental reaction will not be washed out by a good salary. How many justifications have we seen and heard where the big star has not delivered anywhere near the hopes placed in them? The public opinion in such cases is, of course, clearly that the player is to blame or, better still, the coach who insisted on signing them. Without a complex mental examination, however, the scouting profession is running blind.

It would also be important to hold accountable in the media in the event of a failure, including scouting or the professionals responsible for building the team or supporting team-building via scouting. After all, if, in addition to, say, how fast a player is, how high they can jump, their reaction time, etc., they really assessed the mental conditions in which they will be placed and whether this would fit their personality profile or whether the process was doomed to failure, then in principle there would be no miscues. In an ideal case, as the scientific side can now clearly define it, good scouting does not require much mental “constellation” to be examined, but there is no room for error. If these definitions are good, then performance should come. Indeed, the final signing decision must now look at whether the player’s personality makes them suitable for a change of team, and, if so, what type of player they should be. This is the “genesis” of scouting. Then the other side needs to be examined, i.e., the personality make-up of the team they are placed in. What kind of character the team is made up of, and how the player fits or doesn’t fit in. Then it is necessary to look at the environment of the team, the living space, the city itself, the living environment, and the attitudes of the fans, which influence everyday life. And, of course, if we want to be sure, we cannot ignore the personality of the coach, which also has a significant and direct impact on the player’s performance. The most modern clubs also ask for a special assessment of the most important sponsors, to see how well this player will fit their branding needs.